Peter Rietbergen, born in Bemmel, the Netherlands, in 1950. Ph.D. from Radboud University Nijmegen. Professor of the Cultural History of European Overseas Expansion at the Radboud University Nijmegen.
Fellow (1 September 1999 – 30 June 2000)
At NIAS I was part of the theme group that studied (shifting) identities both of ‘indiginous’ and incoming groups and peoples in the various regions of ‘early modern’ Asia. My specific topic was the role of the Dutch in Japan. While answering the question what knowledge the Dutch gained about the Japan’s people and culture, I also wanted to analyse in which ways they imparted this knowledge to Europe and, in doing so, changed European perceptions and identities. In June 2000, I completed the manuscript version of my monograph on Nihon door Nederlandse Ogen. Europa ‘leest’ Japan, ca 1600-1800 [Nihon through Netherlandish eyes: Europe ‘reads’ Japan, ca 1600-1800].
The celebrations of the year 2000 marking the fourcentennary of Dutch-Japanese relations started with a conference at ‘Nishi Bunken’, in Kyoto. I contributed a paper entled The ‘un-knowable Other’? Two seventeenth-century European models for knowing Japan, hoping to publish this as an article. To help publicize the celebrations, I toured the Netherlands talking about various topics in the field of Dutch-Japanese relations. Finally, I used the material I gathered to write a historical novel; it was presented to the former ambassador to Japan of the European Community, Prof. A. van Agt, on 13 June, 2000. Its title is: Dood op Deshima, of: de Weg en de Orde [Death on Deshima, or The Way and the Order] (Meulenhoff Publishers, Amsterdam, 2000). In all my Japanese endeavours, I greatly appreciated the intellectual exchange with Willem Boot.
To the informal discussions of the Asia-theme group’s work-in-progress, I contributed an essay The making of a syncretic saint? Cultural integration in the Eastern Mediterranean during the early seventeenth century, that will be published this year.
Towards the end of the Asia year at NIAS, we organised an international conference on shifting identities in Asia; I presented a paper, Words create worlds: the Kangxi emperor, his court and the shitfing identites of Qing China, to be published in the proceedings.
My stay at NIAS gave me the oportunity to exchange ideas with a number of colleagues, especially Hans Goedkoop, John Neubauer, Julia Smith and Justin Stagl. This helped me to write three chapters for a book titled Licht uit het Oosten [Light from the East], that will deal with literary-philosophical reflections on ‘India’, ca 1780-1980. I wrote on, respectively, Bernardin de St Pierre, Von Hammer-Purgstall and Hesse.
For the Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis [Dutch Historical Review], I completed three articles: ‘Mannen en vrouwen tussen Romaans en Germaans. Beeldvorming in de historische romans van Felix Dahn’ [Men and women between Roman and Germanic culture. Imagery in the historical novels of Felix Dahn] (December, 1999); and for the journal’s theme issue for the year 2001: Op tijd, bij de tijd: tijd door de eeuwen heen [In time, with the times: time through the ages] and Rome: Stad Tussen Tijd en Eeuwigheid [Rome: city between time and eternity]. I also presented a television documentary on Rome broadcasted via Dutch Educational Television on 27 April, 2000: Alle wegen leiden naar Rome [All roads lead to Rome]; amongst other things, it stressed the importance of Rome for the study of Asian histories and cultures. Finally, I finished an article on Bureaucratie en cultuur in de achttiende eeuw: Spanje volgens Sarmiento [Bureaucracy and culture in the eighteenth century: Spain according to Sarmiento].